Wednesday, April 10, 2013

First edX MOOC - Week 4 thoughts

I was looking over edX for a course that I could take out of interest, but also something that I could use to evaluate the pedagogy employed, as well as the platform (LMS) itself.

I came across the Ancient Greek Hero, and since I never really did any classics in college, and the last time I read the Iliad was in 7th grade when I was in Greece, I thought that this would be a good chance to kill several birds with one stone:
  1. Re-read the Iliad (it's been on my list for a while)
  2. Learn a bit more of my own home culture, through a more mature learner lens
  3. See the pedagogies employed in this course
  4. See how edX works (thus far)
Coursewise, I think that there are definitely quite a few nice ideas implemented in this course. First, there is an actual textbook (or at least something that is one volume of collected readings), and it's completely free. Nagy's The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 hours (H24H for short) is something you can buy on amazon, but it's also available for free in the course. There is also a translation of ancient works, like the Iliad, that is a supplementary text. These make it so I can read most things offline, like I did when I participated in cMOOCs and used Pocket to read things during my commute.

The videos of the instructor (Nagy) and his dialogic partners are quite intersting to watch, and if you've read the materials (The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 hours ) then it's almost like a mini review. I would really like to have these videos provide additional information to the readings (connected to them, of course), but not really a rehash of the readings.  The videos do have some new information, you mostly get an opportunity to view the videos, or clips, that are mentioned in the book. The videos of people signing lament songs were quite interesting because despite the language barrier (they were in Hungarian) it reminded me a lot of modern Greek song culture with traditional songs that deal with death and lament.  The other nice thing about EdX videos are that they are hosted on YouTube, so you should easily be able to incorporate them into your own class, and you can also download them!  Way to go edX!  I think this is really getting closer to the spirit of the original MOOC.  Not quite a cMOOC, but getting close :)

The assessments still need work, as far as I am concerned.  Initially I wasn't planning on doing the assessments, given that I was quite happy reading, and viewing, however I decided that I couldn't really see what edX was up to if I didn't partake in the assessments.  This course has two assessments: (1) Multiple choice answers to questions about the readings and (2) read a passage and interpret what's going on.  These are  phrased as essays, but they are really multiple choice questions in disguise. In the grand scheme of things, these seem to me like formative assessments meant to help the learner test to see if they know what they think they know.  That said, I think that there might be some badge or something at the end of the course.

I have kept trying out the assessment tools, sometimes going for the right answer, and sometimes purposefully picking the wrong answer (and sometimes going for the right answer, but getting it wrong), this way I can see what sort of feedback the learners get when they get the wrong answer.  I think that the team, thus far, has done a pretty good job with giving feedback to wrong answers.  There is usually a paragraph or so of explanation for why something is right or wrong, and if you got it wrong, it also gives you the right answer with a reason. The system, however, is far from perfect.  The screenshot shows an example of this: I had the right answer, but it was marked wrong, and the explanation points to me having the right answer.  In a regular online course you can override the grade and have the instructor assign points.  In a MOOC, this can be an issue.

If the point of the assessment is to show the learner what they did wrong, in the hope that they will improve, this type of system error causes some confusion.  If they answered correctly, then why was it marked wrong?  If the point of the assessment is some sort of gate-keeper to prevent some learners from getting some sort of badge or certificate of completion, then these errors have the potential to cause a lot of headaches for the edtech support crew, and for the instructor as well.

At the end of the day, it still seems like xMOOC assessment is still multiple choice question based.  I am hopeful that this will change, at least with edX, given my conversations with people who work for MITx and Harvardx who want to see this be an appropriate platform for the humanities.

All that said, I haven't participated in the discussion forums that much.  Maybe in the next few weeks I will do so to see what they are like. Also, I am almost caught up in the course! I am up-to-date on the book (H24H) and all of the course videos.  The only thing I am behind is the actual scroll-reading of the Iliad. This is meant to be a "fast read" but I can't help but treat it as slow read, which is taking much more time to read than the main textbook.
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